Seattle, WA Bus And Truck Collision, Apr 1947



Seattle (AP) -- Eight bus passengers and an oil truck driver lost their lives Monday night when a heavy Seattle-bound North Coast lines bus collided with the tanker at the south city limits and then plunged into the Duwamish river alongside the Pacific highway.
Eleven other passengers and the bus driver, MELVIN D. LONG, 22, of Olympia, survived. Some had severe injuries but none was critical.
One woman passenger remained unidentified.
Identified dead were:
TELFORD F. SMITHEE, Seattle, the truck driver.
MR. and MRS. ERVIN BURIAN, Tacoma.
First Lt. LYDIA M. CRESSMAN, 40, an army nurse of Seattle.
DARLENE WICK, 6, Portland.
MRS. HELGA WICK, Seattle, grandmother of DARLENE.
MRS. MILDRED MORSE, 53, Seattle post office employe. She was a sister of Dr. Fred Webster, Portland.
Heroic rescue work by eye witnesses and passing motorists, who waded into the river and climbed atop the two-thirds submerged bus, prevented a heavier death toll.
The first rescuers at the scene hacked holes into the roof to pull to safety passengers who were fighting for air inside the wreckage.
The bus driver escaped by kicking out the windshield while a number of men got out without assistance and clung to driftwood in the river until rescued. Thirty minutes afterward the scene was one of confusion as deputy sheriffs, police officers and state patrolmen worked in a heavy rain with artificial respiration and pulmotors to revive passengers as they were removed from the river.
Possibility that locked steering gear resulting from the collision may have sent the bus caroming into the river, was being investigated Tuesday by the state patrol, according to Capt. O. C. Furseth, district supervisor. The bus was impounded by the patrol for examination.
LONG, the bus driver, said at the New Renton hospital, where he was taken with an injured leg, that he rammed into the tanker when SMITHEE pulled out in front of the Portland-Seattle stage.
"Before we hit, I slugged out all the air brakes, but I couldn't stop in time," LONG said.
The bus continued on a short way, veered crazily to the left, miraculously missing a flow of southbound traffic, snapped off a telephone pole, hurtled a 15-foot high bank and plunged into the river, finally ending up against pilings 25 feet out.
The front of the bus was crushed like an eggshell for about four feet. The heavy vehicle floated a minute or two in the water while those trapped inside fought to escape. Then slowly it submerged until only a portion of the rear turtleback top was above water.
Soon automobile spotlights flashed on the wreckage and the rescue work started. Screams of those inside could be heard as the rescuers cut at the roof to reach them.
Five of the bodies were recovered by Fire Dept. Lt. HAROLD E. POLANDER by diving.
More than an hour went by before the bus was surfaced and it was determined all passengers had been removed.
Traffic was snarled for more than a mile on each side of the crash scene as patrolmen and others rerouted cars over alternate routes to facilitate rescue efforts and avoid possible fire from oil and gasoline spilled across the highway from the truck.
The search for survivors was aided by a harbor patrol boat which nosed its was up the river.

Seattle (AP) -- Twelve persons survived the crash of a North Coast lines bus, which plunged into the Duwamish river south of the city with the loss of nine lives.
The survivors included:
MRS. BERTHA FERBER, 46, Tacoma, shock, New Renton hospital.
Cpl. DALE L. GREEN, 25, of South Dakota, stationed at McChord field, condition good, King County hospital.
NICK MARDESICH, Tacoma, condition good, King County hospital.
ROY J. McCULLOGH, Kelso, mouth lacerations, condition fair, King County hospital.
Pvt. CHARLES J. STRAYER, 20, McChord field, condition good, King County hospital.
WILLIAM KENNEY, Tacoma, condition fair, King County hospital.
WILLIAM E. CUMMINS, Spokane, not hospitalized.
MELVIN D. LONG, 22, Olympia, driver of bus; leg bruises and shock, New Renton hospital.

Walla Walla Union Bulletin Washington 1947-04-08